When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer

by Walt Whitman

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Does the speaker respect the learned astronomer?

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I suppose one could argue that the speaker does respect the learned astronomer in that he recognizes his superior learning. After all, why else would he attend one of his lectures? But that's about as far as it goes. Because the speaker, being of an artistic bent, sees the stars above him not in the same way as the astronomer sees them—as objects of scientific study—but as things of beauty in their own right.

The astronomer can produce dozens of charts and diagrams detailing the precise movement of the planets and the stars. But what he can't do is capture the essence of what makes them so fascinating to those, such as the speaker, who gaze up at the twinkling firmament in a spirit of wonder and reverence to behold one of the most awesome spectacles that nature has to offer.

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